Schools adopt online education2/5/09

Teachers incorporate blogs into curriculum

Feb. 5, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

It came about as an idea on how to better share her students’ artwork with the community. Then it morphed into a way to mold art with today’s latest technology. What Williston Central School art teacher M.C. Baker didn’t expect is how far she would run with her idea to use blogs as a way to involve her students more in their work.

 


    Courtesy image by Will Colomb
Williston Central School student Will Colomb, a student in M.C. Baker’s art class, used digital images, including one of his own hands, to make this Photoshop creation. Similar Photoshop art can be found on Baker’s art blog, online at mrsbakersartroom.blogspot.com.

 


    Courtesy image by Julia Parent
In an homage to artist Andy Warhol’s work from the 1960s, Williston Central School student Julia Parent used a photographed self-portrait to create this image in M.C. Baker’s art class. A collage Warhol portraits from all of Baker’s students can be found on her blog.

“It’s amazing how enthusiastic they are when it comes to sharing their work,” Baker said.

Baker, with the help of the school’s technology point person Linda Scott, started her class’ art blog last month as a way to showcase the talent of her young students, and to also make it visually creative with the use of the latest video and audio technology. Rather than just posting pictures of paintings, sculptures and collages, Baker and her students have made short films and audio recordings that showcase their work.

She credits Scott with helping to realize her vision.

“I’m always going to Linda and saying, ‘So, can we do this?’” Baker said.

And parents and family members across the country like the fact they can easily see their child’s or relative’s work from a computer, she said.

“I have received comments from parents and they love it,” Baker said. “Parents always want to know what their kids are doing.”

Pinnacle House teacher Michael Willis, a prolific school blogger, said the biggest benefit of incorporating blogs into classroom activities is the large increase in creativity and productivity from his students.

“The creativity has really come from (the students),” Willis said. “I’ve really let it be student centered. I want them to have a way to show their work.”

Blogs, which are Web pages where information can be posted and commented on by any number of users, are increasingly being utilized in classrooms in Williston. By promoting 21st century learning tools, teachers have been encouraged by the administration to look at all avenues of technology and blogs. Teachers have used them to assign work, post student writings and projects and to get feedback from student peers and community members.

“There are so many different, intricate ways to use blogs,” Scott said.

Full House teacher Al Fletcher has been asking his students to post homework related to a historical fiction novel they are in the early stages of writing. He said the comments students post on the blogs have helped their peers enrich assignments.

“I’d say it’s radically improved communication,” Fletcher said. “(Students) can get instant feedback.”

Willis said when he originally set up his classroom blog, he feared it would eat up too much of his time. But his concerns proved unfounded when his students created all the work for the site and he acted as “technical advisor.”

“Because it’s a computer, it increased the interest,” Willis said.

Alongside classroom blogs, student have created personal blogs as an outlet for further creativity. Fletcher’s students have the option of setting up their blogs to be seen by anyone in the world, or by just a select few in their classroom.

“They can choose the pervasiveness they want,” Fletcher said.

Besides the imaginative aspect of creating art, much of Baker’s students’ work is in tandem with what they’re learning in the classroom. For instance, there’s a video showing Photoshop creations that focus on the life of Isaac Newton. Willis’ lower house students created Andy Warhol-type pictures while studying the artist in class.

For Baker, it’s about engaging students as much as possible and helping them to learn even more about important subjects.

“I can’t stop smiling about it because it’s so great to see them so excited about learning,” Baker said.

Scott agrees and has noticed students become more motivated when they incorporate assignments with the blogs.

“Kids are thoroughly engaged and isn’t that what teachers want?” Scott said.

WILLISTON BLOGS

There are numerous blogs created by students and teachers in Williston, and new ones are popping up every day. Here are a few:

•    M.C. Baker’s Art blog – mrsbakersartroom.blogspot.com

•    Michael Willis’ Pinnacle class blog – willispinnacle.blogspot.com

•    Joy Peterson’s Pinnacle Class blog – petersonpinnacle.blogspot.com

•    Ginny Memoe’s Spanish Class blog – senoritamemoe.blogspot.com